The head-to-head we’ve all been waiting for, the mighty bench press VS it’s partial range cousin the floor press.
The bench press is one of the most well-known popular lifts and is probably one of the first lifts you were introduced to at the gym.
Big chesticles are a sought-after aesthetic, and the bench press can definitely help you get there.
However, the risk to reward ratio can be heavily skewed towards the risk side for a lot of people.
The thing with the traditional bench press is that it can place a tonne of stress on the shoulder joint, especially for a population that spends most of its time hunched over a computer screen.
This hunched over position typically creates a lack of mobility in the thoracic spine and forward rounded shoulders, both of which contribute to poor mechanics at the shoulder during pushing movements.
The Common Issue
The shoulder joint is a complex structure that relies on stability through the surrounding muscles and tissues, most notably those of the rotator cuff.
The desk-bound lifestyle, and subsequent poor shoulder/thoracic mobility that comes with it, can leave these muscles weak and ill prepared to effectively do their job.
Movement and stability at the shoulder is also dictated by the relationship of the scapula and these rotator cuff muscles which provide dynamic stability as the shoulder moves.
The use of a bench can restrict the movement of the shoulder blade, meaning movement at the glenohumeral joint (where the arm connects) is exaggerated to compensate.
This increased compensation at the shoulder joint itself coupled with a general lack of mobility at the shoulder/thoracic spine, can increase pressure in the joint within the sub-acromial space, often resulting in pain.
Now I’m not here to tell you to never bench press again and I’m sure plenty of you can bench press pain free.
There are also a variety of things you can do to improve your bench-pressing capabilities, from specific warmup strategies to actively strengthening and improving the functionality of your shoulder and rotator cuff muscles.
However, for those of you who do experience discomfort during the bench press or want to limit the risk involved, the floor press may be a better option for you.
The Floor Press
The floor press is a variation in which the pressing of the barbell is completed from the floor rather than a bench.
Interestingly enough, the bench press actually originated from the floor as the first recorded instance of the bench press was actually a floor press in 1899.
The main difference here is that the floor provides a surface in which the elbows cannot pass, limiting movement and compensations at the shoulder joint.
Whilst this is a partial range movement when compared the bench press, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The increased support from the solid surface of the floor and limited movement at the shoulder joint can make up for the lack of support from the weaker rotator cuff muscles.
From my experience, you can also get a better mind muscle connection with the floor press as you’re less concerned with stabilising the shoulder and can focus more on the contraction of the chest (which is the whole point of bench pressing).
Depending on your experience with the bench press, the floor press can provide a much less risky alternative in which you can still make great size and strength gains.
Admittedly, the bench press will provide a bigger ROM and therefore more potential for size and strength gains than the floor press.
However, when you weight in the potential for injury, you may find more gains in the floor press over an extended period of time.